Toyota tight-lipped as Canada-wide parts snafu leaves customers fuming

It's been 57 days and counting since Halifax resident Catrina Brown took her leased Toyota Rav4 to a collision centre after it was damaged in a highway accident.

Yet, she still has no idea when the parts needed to repair her vehicle will arrive or when she will even be able to drive it again.

"It's seemingly incomprehensible to me that a massive corporation like that can't get it together to find parts for their cars," Brown said in an interview.

It's a problem being experienced by Toyota owners coast to coast, one the company says is caused by a "planned systems transformation to provide an improved overall customer experience."

But it seems the "transformation" is having the opposite effect on customers left in the dark about when parts will arrive.

"There's been a total lack of communication or effort to be transparent," Brown said. "I've had to do all the work of calling and trying to contact people to find out what's going on.

"It's just unacceptable."

Robert Short/CBC

Megan Dieter of Cambridge, Ont., feels the same way. She waited nearly a month for parts after her 2016 Scion FR-S was in a hit and run on June 26.

When she called Toyota Canada about the problem, she said she was told the company didn't know when parts will be available "and there is nothing they can do to reimburse me for this inconvenience."

She said she was told the delay was caused by the merging of warehouses.

"They just said the system wasn't working and isn't telling them where the parts are located, so they're unable to go and find them or even know if they have the parts," she said.

Her insurance only covered a rental for two weeks, but she said the collision centre repairing her vehicle provided her with a replacement. She finally got her Scion back on Aug. 23.

"Toyota is a huge company and you'd think they'd be able to figure this out," she said, adding she's shocked and disappointed that "they're not taking ownership of this."

Suffering from rental costs

In Mississauga, Ont., Bogdan Dakanovic is also waiting for parts for his damaged 2018 Rav4. It went into the body shop on June 18. He said the experience has been a "pretty big nightmare" and disruption for his family.

His insurance coverage for a rental was running out, and with no estimate of when parts would be available, he appealed to Toyota for a replacement vehicle but was told that was not possible.

He even offered to pay to ship the parts to the body shop if Toyota could find them. Toyota told him that wasn't possible either.

After six weeks, the repair business was able to get enough parts to get his car safely back on the road, but he is still missing a grill and other pieces. He said the shop told him it should have taken just three days to fix the damage. 

"This has been a really stressful experience for me and my family and it's changed the way I look at the brand," he said.

Submitted by Megan Dieter

While he finds it hard to believe a major automobile manufacturer is unable to provide parts, he said he is "shocked by just the pure absence of customer care. No empathy or no action from them whatsoever, other than saying parts will arrive when they arrive and there's nothing they can or will do."

Dakanovic and Dieter are just two of many Toyota owners who have complained on Toyota Canada's Facebook page.

Repair shops are frustrated, as well.

"We haven't been able to get many parts and the parts we are getting are coming in significantly later than we would usually expect them," Cory Gallupe, with Heritage Carstar Collision in Dartmouth, N.S., told CBC News.

Gallupe said they've been waiting on some parts for two months and customers are very unhappy, especially those driving rentals provided by their insurance companies for a designated period.

Robert Guertin/CBC

CBC News also spoke with three collision repair businesses in British Columbia. They too said there are lengthy delays in getting Toyota parts.

Gallupe said some insurance companies, aware of the delay, are asking for temporary repairs to get the cars back on the road.

"In some cases, that's just not a thing we can do," he said. "Vehicles come in that are very badly damaged and they can't stay on the road, and those are the customers that end up suffering from rental costs."

Gallupe said Toyota has told his company there is a computer system switchover that was supposed to start June 1 and take a week. He said Toyota has been unable to give a date when the problem should be fixed.

"They just say it's an ongoing issue and they're doing their best to get back things back to normal," Gallupe said.

Apology, but few details

In a statement to CBC News, Toyota spokesperson David Shum said the parts problem is because of a "planned systems transformation to provide an improved overall customer experience."

The company apologized for the unusual delays and thanked customers for their patience.

Shum did not respond to a question about what the "planned systems transformation" was or why it was causing delays, although he did say the impact is "short term."

In November 2017, Toyota announced plans to relocate its Eastern Canada parts distribution centre from Toronto to Bowmanville, Ont., to ensure that "customers across Eastern Canada continue to have an exceptional ownership experience." It said it would begin operations this fall.

When asked about whether that move was responsible for the delays, Shum said, "No. The Toyota Canada distribution centre is not in the process of moving."

It is unclear whether the announced Eastern Canada distribution centre is the same as the Toyota Canada distribution centre.

Shum said the delays are not impacting any Toyota dealerships outside Canada.

Meanwhile, Brown, the Halifax Rav4 owner, must continue to make lease payments on a vehicle she hasn't been able to drive for almost two months. She said her experience has been far from "exceptional."

"Be accountable, be responsible and be respectful of your customers," she said. "If they can't start treating us with some kind of respect they won't be where we choose to buy our cars."